Chiron and the Centaurs

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  • 8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs


    Chiron and the Centaurs

    Sue Tompkins and Melanie Reinhart

    Discovery and Astronomy:

    Chiron was discovered by Charles T. Kowal on November 1st 1977 (1) at about 10am in Pasadena.

    When discovered it didn't fit into existing categories of celestial objects and for this reason has beenre-classified several times having been defined variously as an asteroid, a comet, and a 'planetoid'.

    Indeed, it still holds 'dual classification' as comet 95P and Minor Planet 2060. Most of the time it is

    positioned between Saturn and Uranus but as a body that crosses the orbits of other bodies, it can at

    times be closer in than Saturn, and at others, further out than Uranus.

    It has a cometary tail which can reach 300,000km in length and which appears to switch on and off

    - at times the tail can be seen, at others not. Once Chiron was discovered, its appearance was noted

    on photographic plates dating back as far as the late 1800s. It had been there all along, but not been


    Likewise, in the horoscope, Chiron symbolises that which is 'hidden' by virtue of being so obviouswe don't actually see it. Very small, only 180km in diameter, Chiron can also describe those things

    that, being so small, may seem insignificant, but in actuality are powerful. In keeping with it's

    continual re-classification as a celestial body, Chiron's meaning in the horoscope resists

    categorisation and defies description.

    The Kuiper Belt:

    The year 1992 saw the discovery of the Kuiper Belt, a large zone of matter surrounding the Solar

    System, comprising possibly billions of small celestial objects currently being discovered and

    classified. Named after the Dutch astronomer Gerald Kuiper (1905-1973) who predicted its

    existence, the Kuiper Belt has yielded several new astronomical categories including the 'Centaurs'.

    Some of the larger Kuiper belt objects (KBO's) or trans-Neptunians such as Quaoar, Sedna, Ixion

    and Xena may prove to be of more than passing astrological interest but so far, it is the Centaurs

    that have particularly caught the attention of astrologers'. More than twenty have been discovered,

    although only about twelve have been named.(2)

    Centaurs are 'born' when objects are drawn in to the Solar System from the icy wastes of space in

    the region around Pluto, pulled in by the gravitational field of Neptune. In Greek mythology, the

    Centaurs were a tribe of unruly creatures who were half horse, half human; only a few have names

    and an individual story line.

    Similarly, while there may be countless Centaurs awaiting discovery in the depths of the Kuiper

    Belt, only a few have been named, thus demonstrating a neat parallel with the mythology. Chironwill probably remain the most well known, the 'chief centaur' just as Ceres is the 'queen of the

    asteroids'(3) In mythology, it is mainly Chiron, Pholus and Nessus who have a substantial story

    line, and so far these are the three Centaurs proving to be the most useful in astrological terms.

    Astrologers and astronomers co-operated in the naming process for several of the Centaurs and this

    is the first time in recorded history that this divide has been bridged. This rapprochement reflects

    Centaur themes: the bringing together of the scientific and the intuitive, the rational and

    inspirational, just as the half-horse, half-human image of the centaur brings together disparate

    opposites, and challenges us to integrate that which seems alien(4).

    Orbital features:

    The Centaurs then, are Minor Planets, which have some distinguishing features. They cross over the

    orbital paths of one or more other bodies between Jupiter and Pluto, and have very elliptical orbits.

  • 8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs


    This means that they will seem to speed through some signs, astrologically, as they whiz round the

    narrower part of the ellipse while taking much longer to transit the signs on the long sides in-

    between these points. Thus Chiron spends about 8 years in Pisces and Aries and only about 2 in

    Virgo and Libra. To complete one complete orbit Chiron takes about 50 years, Pholus about 90

    years, and Nessus 124 years.

    These elliptical orbits will mean a big difference in the distance from the Sun at different parts of

    the orbit. For example, Chiron's mean distance from the Sun is 13.73 AU(5). At perihelion it is8.453 AU, while at aphelion it is 18.899AU. Its period of axial rotation is 5.9 hours, and its orbital

    inclination to the ecliptic is a steep 7 degrees.

    Symbolism of discovery:

    Chiron's discovery at this pivotal time in our history reflects a process of innovation and change by

    'quantum leap' - as well as technological changes - potentially changes of consciousness, belief,

    behaviour and life-style. In this sense Chiron bridges the realms of Uranus (radical change,

    revolution and the overturning of old collective structures) and Saturn (lord of manifestation and

    preserver of existing forms). By weaving both impulses into a higher synthesis, more uniquely

    personal than either planet, Chiron's process may help us individuate beyond the various pressuresof the collective to which we are all subject. Commitment to the healing of self, others and our

    environment is the price this minor planet seems to be asking us to pay.

    In the Greek myth, Chiron is accidentally hit by an arrow which had been dipped in the poisonous

    blood of the Hydra and the theme of poisoning is an interesting one around Chiron and the

    Centaurs. They have been discovered during a period of time when the true extent of the toxic

    devastation of the environment is coming to light. Nuclear waste, chemical waste and pollutants,

    industrial accidents and toxic spills of one kind or another are very often in the news. We are daily

    flooded with toxic material - in our water, in the air we breathe, in the dental materials most of us

    have in our mouths. Arguably, it is the rings of Saturn that symbolically protects the immune

    system and Chiron penetrating through Saturn's orbit may be a co-significator for some of thediseases of immune deficiency that have proliferated over the last few decades.

    The Pluto Connection:

    Chiron may have a role in enabling us to integrate the powerful experiences signified by the outer

    planets, Uranus, Neptune and especially Pluto, which is in fact the largest inhabitant of the Kuiper

    Disk, and formerly the only 'orbit-crossing' planet. Certainly, it seems to act as an emissary, agent

    or escapee of Pluto and can, to some extent, be interpreted similarly to a kind of smaller, bite sized

    version of that planet.

    The Centaurs seem to preside over rites of passage and processes of purification that accompany

    spiritual development. Their discovery may enable consciousness and awareness to be brought intoareas of the soul previously inaccessible except perhaps to hermits, mystics and shamans and others

    dedicated to the inner journey.


    Chiron is often associated with the archetypal theme of the Wounded Healer. He was the son of

    Kronos or Chronus (Saturn) and a sea-nymph called Philyra. Because both parents were in their

    horse form when he was conceived, Chiron emerged as a centaur; half horse and half human. When

    she saw him, Philyra was so horrified that she prayed to be turned into anything other than what she

    was - the mother of a monster. Chiron was abandoned and then rescued by a shepherd who took

    him to the Sun god Apollo.

    Chiron's mother Philyra demonstrates the primary state of mind that creates our suffering - the

    inability to accept things as they are, instead to react in a rejecting and negative way. The

  • 8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs


    astronomy is reflected in the mythology, in that Chiron is taken to Apollo, and fostered by the Sun

    god. In their elliptical orbits, Chiron and the Centaurs appear to be tending inwards to the Sun like

    Chiron taken to Apollo. This detail also reminds us that our suffering and our compulsions need to

    be brought into the light of compassionate awareness, for Apollo was the god of healing, music and

    prophecy and other skills.

    In the episode which earned Chiron the title of "Wounded Healer", Hercules, one of his students,

    accidentally wounded him. Because Chiron was a demi-god, he could not die, but neither could heheal himself, as the wound was poisoned. Chiron in astrology often represents that which we can do

    for others, but we cannot do for ourselves. After existing in agony for a long time, trying

    unsuccessfully to heal himself, Chiron changed places with Prometheus, who was chained to a rock

    as a punishment for tricking Zeus (Jupiter).

    Thus both Chiron and Prometheus were released from their suffering. Chiron was finally able to die

    and was immortalised in the constellation of Centaurus, which flanks the Southern Cross. This is a

    powerful description of the process whereby our suffering is resolved - by full empathy and

    acceptance of it and/or empathy with the suffering of another.


    Chiron and Exile:

    In keeping with the mythology, a theme of 'exile' is often felt around Chiron. Where we find Chiron

    in the horoscope, we may feel different, not understood and outside of life in some way. In this

    respect, Chiron seems to operate like a weak version of Uranus. Whereas we can associate Uranus

    with rebellion and revolution and perhaps the awakening of rebellious feelings in others, with

    Chiron the experience is more that of sitting outside the herd.

    Chiron, death and transition:

    Matters pertaining to death in the horoscope are of course signified by Saturn, Pluto, the 8th house

    and Scorpio but Chiron undoubtedly joins this team of significators. Themes like voluntaryeuthanasia, assisted suicide, living Wills, and the rights of the dying seem to be specifically

    symbolised by Chiron, whose role seems to come under the umbrella of the conscious acceptance of

    death. Such acceptance can play an important part in the process of healing. By transit, Chiron can

    signify the deaths of significant others in our lives, although there will always also be other

    indicators pointing the same way. It is often active at times of illness too, when we may be forced to

    face the fact that we are mortal.

    In the mythology, Chiron was accidently wounded by Hercules and Chiron often seems to be at

    work when people get caught up in some kind of larger crossfire. For instance, it is often prominent

    in the charts of major disasters, especially when in opposition to Saturn, for some reason.

    Chiron and Disability:

    The American astrologer Kim Gallagher Rogers has noted how similar the glyph for Chiron is to

    the symbol for wheelchair access(6). She points out that the wheelchair disability symbol was

    adopted in 1968 when Chiron was at 0 degrees of Aries, a potent point which often signifies the

    birth of something. Chiron, in common with Pluto, certainly seems to be a co-significator of at least

    some forms of disability and it's discovery 'coincided' with the time when disability was finally

    becoming something that could start be acknowledged and discussed. The Campaign for equal

    rights for people with disabilities was at a height in 1977 in the US, pre-emptied by Edward Roberts

    who was the first person with a severe disability to be a student living on campus.

    In the same way that the whole subject of death was largely a matter of denial in the West until the1970's, so were all matters pertaining to disability. The vast majority of the American public for

    instance, never knew that President Roosevelt, who was in power from 1933 to his death in 1945

    was totally paralysed from the waist down (due either to polio or Guillain-Barre syndrome which he

  • 8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs


  • 8/8/2019 Chiron and the Centaurs


    The best way to understand Chiron in your horoscope is to track its transits over time, particularly

    the main 'hard' aspects: conjunction, square and opposition.

    Some 'classic' Chiron themes

    In some horoscopes, putting Chiron in will have the effect of highlighting a pattern, creating a new

    emphasis or serving to explain something really prominent about a person not otherwise reflected in

    the chart. Studying it often makes for an 'aha' effect, where suddenly things click into place. Peoplewho cannot relate to Chiron fall into one of two categories: there are those who are so busy

    blocking out the deeper dimensions of their soul that they cannot resonate with Chiron, out of fear.

    Then there are those who are living so close to the archetype that they cannot see it!

    There can be an obvious 'unhealable wound' depicted by Chiron's placement, a situation that we

    cannot escape from although we may try to and which provides grist to the mill of our 'soul-work'

    for many years. Just as in the myth, however, there is potential resolution and release. Very often

    this revolves around accepting the unacceptable, the unfair, the incomprehensible; it may mean

    stopping trying to figure things out and fix them, but instead to simply allow ourselves to be with

    the experience.

    Chiron can also depict a brilliance, something which stands out and defines a person. It can show

    where we behave or feel like an outsider, a maverick or wanderer, where we resist being tied down,

    where the constraints of society weigh heavily. There is a wildness, a freshness, a volatility of

    energy, a certain instability where we can go to extremes. It can also be like 'blind spot' where

    something is obvious to everyone but ourselves. Psychologically, it could be said that Chiron

    symbolises part of us that has been split off. It has become dissociated because of trauma or

    suffering, or simply through a lack of understanding or language to process an experience. Transits

    act like the classic shamanic process of 'soul retrieval' where that which has been outcast, seeks to


    Pholus - the lid comes off

    Pholus was discovered in 1992 , and its process seems to be one where a small event sets off a chainreaction, either inwardly or externally, in terms of consequences. In the Greek mythology, Pholus

    was the keeper of the sacred jar of wine of Dionysus. Dionysus was the god of ecstasy; whose riteswere often characterised by drunkenness and chaos, and sometimes they culminated in violence.

    Similarly Pholus events often involve things getting out of control. The way to deal with Pholus is to

    take only essential actions until the floods subside and things settle down. The jar of Pholus was notsupposed to be opened for four generations, and so the astrological Pholus often highlights the

    releasing of ancestral processes, whether these are known or unknown to us. In some way, bearingwitness to the past can be important as we are called upon to clarify our own ancestral lineage.

    Sometimes there are specific things to do, like forgiveness work, or putting flowers on a grave. But

    often it is simply to inwardly acknowledge the suffering of those who went before us, and torecognise the tragedy of it.

    Nessus - the buck stops here.

    The 3rd Centaur to be discovered is one that seems to address issues to do with the abuse of power,



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